Sunday, April 29, 2012

Do You Want to Be on a Leash?

Naomi was seriously ill when she was young. She was the second daughter in a family of five in the Russian-facing part of Japan, a cold and snowy region. At 23, she graduated from the local university and became a teacher. This was in the 1940s, and it was unusual for a Japanese girl to graduate from a university at that time. She said she was lucky to be sick, because she could keep reading books in bed while her sisters and brother needed to work in the rice fields. That was her attitude; it may have looked like sickness negatively affected her for a while physically, but it could not get her spirit down.

She became a teacher of the Japanese language. She had her own style of teaching, which her principal did not like. She had continuous problems with her principal and vice principal during her first year. She was just 25 years old, a new teacher, and she was not expected to disagree with her elders. She was expected to say "Hai - yes, sir" to her supervisors. She hated that feeling. She did not like to take orders that she did not agree with and did not understand. She thought many times that she might have agreed with them without arguing if they had tried to convince her, explain things to her, and made sure she was comfortable with their orders. However, in those days, things did not happen that way in Japan. Most of time, they just ordered her to either stop what she was doing or to do as they did. When she asked why, they just said to do what they told her. No explanation was given.

She started to explore possibilities for getting out of her difficulties. She began attending hairdressing school at night and obtained a national license to be a hairdresser.

When she received her license, she resigned from the school and took a train to Tokyo. She opened a small hairdressing shop in downtown Tokyo. While she was making plans for opening her shop, she met an architect who helped her design the shop and later married him. She had unleashed herself.

Her friends laughed at her because she had abandoned a respectable job as a teacher to become a hairdresser; however, she did not care. Her shop was busy because she opened it close to a geisha place, and many of the geisha girls went to her shop because it was close to their workplace. As her business grew, she hired two additional hairdressers. When her husband became ill with diabetes, she continued to work in order to support her husband who had to be hospitalized and to buy the proper medications. She saved enough money to buy her family a house in the western outskirts of Tokyo and decided to retire at the age 58. When she was 69, her husband passed away. Her savings enabled her to buy the property where her hairdressing shop had been located and build an apartment complex, which provided a constant income.

Today, Naomi is 87 years old and lives in Tokyo. When her son wanted to return to Tokyo to take care of her, she said, "No" because she wanted him to follow his dreams as she had done. In fact, she is the largest investor and most reliable partner in her son's company.

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